KANDAHAR -- Dozens of Taliban militants and Afghan soldiers died during an hours-long Taliban attack on a military base in Kandahar Province, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said Wednesday (July 26).
Taliban militants "attacked an army camp in ... Khakrez District of Kandahar last night [Tuesday, July 25], and 26 Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers were killed and 13 injured," said MoD spokesman Gen. Dawlat Waziri told Salaam Times.
Afghan soldiers "bravely resisted", he told AFP, saying they killed more than 80 insurgents.
Residents in the area described a sprawling attack launched by a convoy carrying hundreds of Taliban who came from multiple directions.
A security source in Kandahar who requested anonymity told Salaam Times "dozens of Taliban riding in 20 cars at 11pm [arrived in the area] last night from the direction of Nesh and Miyanesh districts of Kandahar."
The fighting lasted three hours, he said.
"We conducted multiple air strikes killing dozens of [Taliban]. Our helicopters transported wounded soldiers to hospitals in Kandahar," said General Raziq Shirzai, the provincial air force commander, according to AFP.
The Taliban claimed responsibility via Twitter.
The troops stationed at the base had defied repeated threats from the Taliban, the Salaam Times source said.
"The Taliban sent tribal elders to the base several times to urge them to leave. But the ANA soldiers refused. They said they would protect the base and region," he said.
String of deadly attacks
Taliban insurgents have been ramping up their campaign against Afghan troops, underscoring rising insecurity during the summer when the warmer weather spurs an increase in militant attacks.
Casualties among Afghan security forces soared by 35% in 2016, with 6,800 soldiers and police killed, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a US watchdog organisation.
Militants in 2017 have inflicted heavy casualties in a number of attacks on military and civilian installations.
Over the weekend, the Taliban killed 35 civilians at a Ghor Province hospital.
In April at least 135 soldiers are believed to have been killed on a base outside Mazar-e-Sharif, one of the deadliest ever Taliban attacks on a military installation. Some sources put the toll as high as 200.
In early March gunmen disguised as doctors stormed the Sardar Daud Khan Hospital -- the country's largest military hospital -- in Kabul, killing dozens.
The Taliban have a heavy presence in poppy-growing Kandahar Province and have launched repeated attacks on security forces there, including multiple assaults on military bases in May that killed dozens of soldiers.
A recent UN report showed Kandahar, which lies on the border with Pakistan, was also one of the most dangerous places in the country for civilians.
More than 70 Kandahar Province villagers were kidnapped by the Taliban over the weekend, officials said. Seven were found dead and some 30 returned, while Afghan police have launched a search-and-rescue operation for the remaining hostages.
[Sulaiman from Kabul contributed to this report.]